tv Book Discussion on Circle of Treason CSPAN March 20, 2014 8:00pm-9:00pm EDT
but i am optimistic the society will bounce back. the united states economy grew 1.9% with fiscal drag reducing growth by 1.3 percentage points. so it would have been growing over 3% without that tightening. >> cbo doesn't make policy recommendations and that is important. because they don't just depend pend on the course of action but how one weighs them and the values they play and there is something special about our values. our job is to help congress understand the consequences of the alternative action. >> views on the economy with experts from financial times and
mit. that is on sat morning. and live festival from the virginia book fair. first a panel on afric african-americ african-american history and then foreclosures in the african-american community. and who was going to be person of the year in 1864? they will pick a winner. sandra grimes was one of the small groups of cia operators who exposed a russian role. she writes about it in her book
"circle of treason: the cia account of traitor aldrich ames and the men he betrayed" this is an hour. >> we are very fortunate to have sandra grimes this afternoon. she has a remarkable story to tell. the story from inside the cia where she worked for years. hired by them out of college in 1967, she spent two and a half decades rising in assignments working against european countries. she was going to resign when asked to stay for one more assignment in 1991. that assignment involved joining a five-person team charged with figure out why so many of the cia's most valued soviet assets had been executed or put in prison years later.
it ended up turning up one of the most wellknown traders. "circle of treason: the cia account of traitor aldrich ames and the men he betrayed" is an inside account of how he was caught and who he betrayed. it was published along with a co-writer in may of 2012. the story has gained attention as part of the eight-part minee series "assets" that started
airing last month. zeier "zero dark 30" showcased women and "homeland" revolves around a female cia analyst. her real life story lacked the drama of these stories and told her one condition when putting together the assets was her character have no affairs. she put her foot down there. old school she says. but sandy is a bright and determined intelligence professional who did our country a great service. review of the book in the "washington times" says quote the most gripping account
of insider accounts you are ever apt to read. please join me in welcoming sandra grimes. thank you very much. can everybody hear me? i will have to take my glasses off so i can see my notes. i am delighted to be here to talk about "circle of treason." my remarks are going to be brief because i want to leave a lot of time for your questions and i will be glad to answer, i assume, most of them i'll be able to. i want to say i am here to represent my good friend and co-author jean. as i tell you about the story to determine who or what caused the loss of the soviet assets in 1985 and 1986.
in 1991, that led us to search for a trader in cia. to make matters worse, we know it would not be a stranger. he would be a co-worker, a colleag colleague, someone we had known for a very long time and saw every day probably in the head quarters of the building. but "circle of treason" isn't just a story about how we identified a spy. it is much more than that. for the first time, jean and i are able to tell the history of cia's contact with his victims. many of their stories are ours are well. we participated in the number of handling of the cases and we watched as those we knew were arrested and executed also concerned we might have made a mistake which led to their
deaths is a burden no one wants to carry but that is what a number of us in cia had to do for the next eight years until our mole was identified. you may have noticed i have yet to mention his name. we know it is aldrich ames or rick as he is known to us. and yes, he was a colleague and for me personally he and i were carpool partners in the mid-1970s. on april 16, 1985 rick ames decided to walk to the front door of the soviet embassy downtown washington, d.c. 16th street and volunteer his services to the soviet union. two months later, he decided to
provide his kbg handlers with the names of or identifying information on every single one of our human sources reporting on the soviet union. those who were current, retired and dormant. and he knew what fate awaited them by doing so. they would be arrested, they would be interrogated, they would face a trial, and they would be convicted and they would be executed. a bullet to the back of the head. now, it is 1985 and our nightmare begins. late may, gru asset
focomreceives a cable saying you are to return to moscow and we bring him safely to the united states. early august, our kbg asset in nigeria is arrested in moscow during a home leave. sometime between late august and ear ear ear early october our giu is arrested in moscow also during a home leave. november 6th, our kbg asset here in washington, d.c. boards a flight at dulles bound for moscow over and back short trip. he never see him again. early november again, our kbg asset travels to east berlin for
a three-day conference. he disappears. and into 1986, february, our g asset arrested in moscow. rgru asset in moscow is arrested. july 7th, 1986 our long retired gru asset, general demitry is arrested in moscow one day after his 66th birthday and he is the highest ranking officer this government has ever rung. in 1987, another kbg asset is
arrested. here we are at the end of 1985 and obviously something is seriously wrong. two possible explanations. we have a human penetration at the cia or our communications have been compromised; in other words they are reading our traffic. what do we do? our first action was taken in response to a new volunteer. in january 1986 a soviet intelligence officer volunteered to cia. our goal was simple: we have to keep this one alive.
we have no idea if this is a trader or technical issue so we have to guard with both sides. in respect to trader, we institute what we call jur coneian security measures and we eliminate everybody being aware of those new assets. we have to address the technical side with the possibility they are reading the traffic on the soviet cases. well this one was a little bit more difficult. we basically punted and ignored staff communications. we didn't -- there was zero cable traffic between head quarters and the field station where the new asset was. we went back to basic toes communicate.
it wasn't the stone age, but it was pretty close we said. we did have a technical something that was sort of out of this world at the time. we have our new asset. he is okay. we are keeping this one alive. enter my co-author who is on assignment in garbone as our chief of stations. she returns home and she is trapped with trying to determine what in the heck happened. she has a small task force of people who begin this effort. at the same time jean and her people are looking at our losses, the fbi has also established a task force.
they suffered similar problems with their soviet cases during the same time period as we. all right. now we are going to have to fast forward. it is early 1991, a little over five and a half years later and we still don't have a clue as to what happened. that is not to say there were not plenty of explanations and leads. there were lots. each was fully investigated and each was discarded. meanwhile the fbi also doesn't have a clue as to what caused their losses. however, there is a bit of good news. since we instituted the security measure we haven't lost a single
new source and the number of our reporting sources on the soviet union had continued to increase and we were able to keep every single one of them alive. because of this there were some people sign senior positions in cia who believed what happened in 1985 and 1986 was largely a historical problem. it might be nice to know the answer, but it wasn't affecting our current operations. we were doing fine and were once again back in business. e enter jean again.
she is facing mandatory retirement and she still felt terriblely guilty she was unable to answer the question as to why he -- we -- suffered so many losses during that period. and she wanted to spend the rest of her time taking one more look at these old cases. she viewed this as a solitary effort. it would only be jean looking at the old reports. however that was soon to change. and again i have to be completely honest if was really due to happenstance that i ended up working with jean, looking for the answer, as did two fbi employees; one a special agent and one a special analyst.
we added a fifth member eventually, a cia officer from our office of security. now, the book takes you through our search for a trader. out of approximately 160 cia employees who over the years had information about one or more of the loss cases. the investigation itself and i will use one of jean's favorites words was many pronged. it involved months of mind-numbing work with the occasional nugget which kept us going. that is not to say there wasn't a urekea himont.
there was. it occurred in early august 1992, a little over a year after the group was assembled. i was given the task of creating a list of all of rick's activities. that particular august morning, i was able to create dates of meetings rick was having with a soviet development contact here in washington, d.c. with cash deposits he had made to one of his local checking accounts. this was the first link that the lead to his arrest and conviction. it was cash. it was after meetings with the soviet national who wasn't an
intelligence officer but arms controlled specialist. why was what he said he was. and every one of the depauosits was below the $10,000 reporting requirement that the feds put on the banks at the time. all right. lastly, were jean and i ever afraid rick ames was going to get away with treason? you bet we were. the task force was drawing to a close in 1993, several months later an fbi analyst began to prepare a report of the findings. this wasn't a cia document.
it was an official fbi document because we were turning everything over to them. jean and i had a say in the drafting of the paper, but the final wording was beyond our control. as we understood it, when the report came out in march of 1993, it didn't identify rick ames as the primary suspect. it did, however, have his name on a short list of other possible suspects. for jean and myself it was a pretty difficult time. we were convinced rick ames was the trader we spent two years looking for and our analysis proved that to be the case.
we know the fbi didn't share our belief and would continue to focus on others on their short list. but thankfully, and truly thankfully, additional information became available that didn't identify rick, but pointed in his direction. and most importantly, it forced the fbi to open a full scale investigation of risk ames. one year later, february 21st, 1994, president's day, a government holiday and we were at work. rick ames is arrested by the fbi around the corner from his house. he was on his way to cia head quarters. not too long after that, his
wife was arrested at their home. both pled guilty to espionage. his wife got five years and was stripped of her citizenship and deported to columbia upon being out. rick received life. it is almost 20 years. he is at the federal pen at alanwood, pennsylvania. as i mentioned at the beginning, jean and i are most proud that we have been given permission to be able to tell the story of our assets. they are about real people, real
spying and real contributions and most important and as jean and i and others at cia understood when these soviet intelligence officers volunteered their services to the united states they knew they were putting their lives in our hands and we, meaning the cia, failed them. we could not repay them for thor sacrifices or their flames, but we owed each of them an answer and that was the goal and mission and the story of "circle of treason." questions on that sad note? [ applause ]
yes? >> so this happened over 20 years ago? with today's technology, data mining and predictive analytics, do you think that would have accelera accelerated the search? >> not at all. i will use this as an example. rick ames had no personal meetings in washington, d.c. all of the meetings with his kbg handlers were broad. but like bob hanson from the fbi, if you keep it simple it tends to work. the basics don't fail you in spying. he loaded drops, made signal sights, unloaded drops and he had complete technical coverage by the fbi and they are very good at that.
i mean the phones were bugged, there were cameras everywhere, not just at his house, but cia head quarters as well. there were beacons on this car. so all of the that stuff, no, not in the terms of the spying we did. questions, please! [inaudible question] >> it has been a long time but i remembered questions about how people can't see the increase fluent and why that didn't raise questions. >> rick and his increased consumption and the one thing you read in the papers all of
the time was his red jag. let's put it this way, rick, as i said, he walked in and started to work for the soviet in april 1985. you saw zero change in ames until returning from the tour in rome and that was in 1989. he was still the rick ames i had always known truly. but rick said this was his cover story that he had gotten the money from his wife's family. her father died in the mid-1980s. we knew they were from a well-connected family in columbia. as a matter of fact, the extended family gave the land to build the largest soccer field
in bogota. she met rick when she was assigned to the columbia city third secretary. she got her appointment from the president of columbia. so it wasn't out of the question that obviously some of the money came from her side of the fam y family. but i always say with respect to the stupid red jag. rick and i parked in the same garage and i had to walk past three red jags before i got to my car and one was rick's. this wasn't out of the ordinary. the same are respect to rick's drinking. i did socialize with rick a l
litt little. we were not closed but we group in the same circles and close in age. even at the christmas parties, which were very nice, i never saw him drunk. i think he was a binge drinking and particularly after his marriage. whenever she was out of the country or out of town he would get drink. and i never met his wife, but she apparently was so difficult her lawyers couldn't stand her, even the poor borough guys listening to the phone -- they thought rick was abused so just a human touch to ames.
and i will add one think. if you told me rick ames was going to be one of the worst traders this country has ever seen i would have said not the rick ames i knew. >> were there other people around you other than rick ames that knew more suspension and have you thought what was different between him and the others? and do you know what happened to his wife in columbia? >> i will answer that one first. i don't have a clue what happened to her. i suspect she is alive and squel living the good life in bogota.
they did have one child. paul is his name. and he is in his 20's now. when she went to jail, her mother took paul back to columbia where he was raised. he was five or six at the time. okay. what am i answering now? oh, what was the question again? >> why he was so not-suspect and were there others who were more suspect. >> i am not going to tell you their names if they were. however, this is a fairly long story. when we started the task force, we have to look at 160 people, right? we immediately have a terrible problem. there is no way we can investigate 160 without an army. so we have to find some way to
prioritize. and this was jean's idea. simple, not scientific and i will say criticized by people in power after rick's arrest, but it worked. what we did was we had the four members and six others, four from cia and two from the fbi, we asked them to please privately write down on a piece of paper, i am almost embarrassed to tell the story, the names of five or six people who made them uneasy. we are looking for a trader here. and made them uneasy and individuals they thought we
should take a close look at first. then we asked them to put them in rank order. the one that made you the most uneasy first place, second and so on down. we say this wasn't a contest you would want to win. we took the submissions and totaled the numbers. and a real surprise! rick ames came out on top and he had the most points at 21. and i will toot my own horn here and as i say i will use jean's word of all those who voted only sandy gets the gold star. she had him in first place. we have a new short list because rick wasn't the only one who got more than one or two points. what we did was we looked at the
small group first and eventually ames became the primary focus. that is not to say we didn't continue to look at the rest of the people, by this time, probably 152 on the list, we did. but we focused on the short list. that is how it got sorted out. >> so, these events were '85, '86, and '87 and you four people were formed when? >> '91. i got there in may and the other guys end of june. >> and a timeline question: how long did the four of you meet and before you zeroed in and thought he was prime? was it immediately because of the vote? >> it was about a year.
it was less than a year. it was less than a year because the moment came a little bit more than a year and then there was no question. >> the rest was data to support it? >> exactly. and then what happened was the borough in 1993 came in after getting the additional information and then it was truly an invesigative affair. obviously we are very involved with the justice department and attorneys because they want evidence to be able to prove espionage charges. it is one of the worse cases in
the world to try so they would like to catch them in the act but we didn't. >> my question is how did they vet the members in the program to make sure you were not the mole? did they take a chance? >> i have to say you are the second person to ever ask me the question. i think it is great question. because it would be the first i would ask. jean and had both had to be repar rep repolied. we were lucky in that she and i knew all of the resources but we were doing different things in '84 and '85. she wasn't in the country and unaware of the counturrent sour and i was handling activity to
soviet europeans in africa. i knew one and she was one my branch was responsible for keeping alive. so i was aware of that one. but because we had insufficient knowledge. but you are correct, we did have to be repolied. it was determined that sandy and jean were going to worth together and the fbi guys were going to come over and then i got the news you have to do a polygraph. i got a speeding ticket on the way to the office that day. >> was the rest of the agency aware you were in the middle of the hunt or was it kept quite? >> we didn't keep it from
anybody. and i think that is an important distinction. this wasn't going to be a paper exercise. we were looking for a human penetration of cia. rick was aware of it. we interviewed rick. i cannot use that word, though. we talked to people who were aware of the operations to garth more information about how paper was really handled. you can read what it says in the file, nowadays an e-mail, but you don't know the interaction between people. >> two questions. i am surprised he could walk into the soviet embassy in washington, d.c. and wasn't that embassy under surveillance. and i am wondering if there was a moment before we was arrested
when we realized you knew who he was and if not what was it like once you realized it was him, but he had not been arrested yet, how difficult was it to have to deal with him? >> it was more than difficult. i think most of the time we are good actors and actresses, but that was tough. i smoked during those days, confession. you could not smoke in the building and i would go out to the courtyard. rick is a heavy smoker and he would always come over and say what are you doing? how is the search going? i stopped smoking. [ applause ] >> i was so afraid i was going
to mess it up. but in hindsight i did haven't a think to worry about. rick was so arrogant. there was no way two ladies, and add two fbi guys, are every going to catch me. it was really that. and then first part? the surveillance. okay. you are absolutely right. they have coverage. so what did rick do? after he leaves the soviet embassy, he calls his buddies that i assume it was the washington field office and says if you see a guy going into the embassy at 1:15 p.m. today, it
is me. he had sort of an excuse for being there. we never knew he walked into the embassy until later during the investigation when we giving the borough things to handle. at the time, beginning in early 1985, rick was developing a soviet national. he was an armed control specialist and there was nothing out of ordinary with rick doing this job. his contact with his individual was known to fbi head quarters, cia head quarters, it was reported to each during the development phases and that
particular day rick was sched e scheduled to have a meeting at the mayflower. and rick was an alias so he doesn't want anything to do with this american and that is if i do something with this american i have to report it to the kbg. he kept ignoring rick. and that day scheduled lunch and he doesn't show up again and rick throws down 3-4 vodkas and decides he is going to walk right into the embassy and if he is ever asked he is going to say i got sick and tired of being stood up by the punk. so i walked in. and guess what?
he showed up for the next scheduled meeting. so he had cover for action as we say. >> you had mentioned it was the finding of the fbi report and the way it was structured that could have made or broken your case. was there an internal path within the cia you would have followed otherwise or followed-up on their own based on the level of work they put in? >> i don't know the answer to that question. i don't know. i only know two things: when jean and i started this, we always knew we would identify who the trader was. in our wildest dreams, we never
imagined he would be convicted and go to jail. that just wouldn't happen. we would be able to answer the question internally and the fbi report, god, i don't know. it was on official fbi document. did we make mistakes? yes. and we talk about one thing we had done, but we didn't think about this. these were our buddies. the fbi and cia, right? and there was no question we were surprised at the final report. how and why that happened is beyond me. don't know. but in hindsight, when that came out, yeah, we should have done that ahead of time on the off
chance because we didn't know what the official paper was going to look like. we should have written our own, but we didn't, and it caused lots of problems. yes? >> this is about the tv program. i watched the two episodes that were air. is there anyway you can see the other episodes? >> i would like to see them as well. i will say this: there is hope. c and the reason there is hope is because the president of abc announced to the press that the asse "assets" will be shown in one way whether it is cable, netflix
or abc proper. he said one week after he canceled us. i did get to see episode three and it is much better than the first two. >> i am going to write to the president of abc and complain >> there is still hope. another think i will -- thing -- i will say is there is creative license. number one, i have never made pancakes in my life. and i certainly have never prepared a hot breakfast for my family during the week -- ever! it was always cold cereal in the car for the girls as i took them to the bib baby sitter and no
milk. dry! . >> what did you think about the new tv show "the assets"? >> it was a world that i had never been a part of and i will laugh, though. i wish that it happened maybe 20 years ago. a lot more fun. however, for you ladies here, the day i was on "good morning america" i had a professional make-up artist who travelled with me the entire day. it was wonderful. i didn't wash my face for about three days. and false eyelashes! it was fun. >> thank you. >> you are quite welcome.
>> hi, you said that you checked his bank records. and i am just wondering in terms of employee confidentality, do agents sign a release? how do you get -- >> it is called the national intelligence letter. i didn't know it existed simply because i was never involved in personal security. but it is part of the authority director of the cia but only counter intelligence case, in other words there a has to be suspicious behavior.
>> evidence? >> i would call it circumstantial. they could say no. and in rick's case they did. but the big thing was i would say part of it wasn't just his bank accounts, credit card accounts and two there were little things that would come up. i cannot believe he was so sloppy. he would charge an airline ticket. new york to austria. and we were under the rules com legilations of the cia employee you travelled anywhere out of
the country, whether it was for pleasure, you had to get approval from the office of security to do that and in all places the hot bed of spying east and west? there were little things like that. and i had to say as we were going along, it is probably like a police investigation if you are looking for a murder suspect. true are trying to eliminate rick as your suspect. every piece of information. you don't want to get the wrong guy. >> where did you determine were his motivation for spying? >> simple greed. it was money. now, money, though with again a little twist. jean and i are absolutely convinced if it were not for his
wife rick never wouldn't have committed treason. the material things were not important to him. but in early '85, he was facing a divorce, although he had not told his current wife that he needed a divorce because he had promise his new wife who was now in the states they were getting married in august. and rick knew he had to divide up his and nan's assets. there were not a lot. it was basically $20,000. that is all we needed. and he could have come to the agen agency. we help our employees. and he chose not to. however, he never ever would have been able to keep rosario
in the style she what she was due. neiman marcus and up the ladder is all she was concerned with. >> sandy, you indicated in the book getting the manuscript was a struggle and you got 90% a approv approved. you would think the agency would want the truth out. why the difficult? >> we didn't write "circle of treason" until nine years after rick's arrest and then it was four years later, after serious medical issues, we had our first draft and submit it to the cia's
review board for approval. it was painful. the first draft came back and we were shocked. it was pages of black. so it took us three years of back and forth. and i think a big part of the problem were the story of assets. this is the secret world of spying. however, everyone of those guys were gone. and the kbg certainly knew more about the operations than we did because they were able to interrogate them. there were other things the agency asked that we remove. they didn't tell us why. although, we sort of had an
inkling. times changed and things that may not have been classified. when you are dealing with human beings, things that might not have been classified in, you know, 19 -- i don't know. how about 2004. there can be a circumstance that would require that story not be released at that time. so for the most part, i would say we were able -- yes, 90%. and the 10% one where circumstances had changed and the other said were just stupid. and i say stupid in the sense when you read the book you will see the first name and the first initial of the last name -- i
don't know. i think it was like working for an insurance company. it was what was on the rules and regulations. it didn't make any difference these people had not retired under cover, it didn't make any difference they had passed away 20 years earlier, it didn't make any difference their names were in books all over the place. so finally we give up and said the heck with it. but i would say it was one of these -- it was just hard for them to accept that this kind of material should appear in public. but you paid for it! >> you mentioned that you did the straw pull and discovered amongst the investigator, for lack of a better term, that mr.
ames made people the most uneasy or whatever the right grammar is. in the wake of all that we have learned in the concept of blink and brilliant and manifesting itself after years of experience, did you every sit around with them what made you uneasy about him? >> it was his ego. it was so huge to the point that even his posture changed. rick was a tall guy and slouched. he was erect and in charge of everything after coming back, smarter than everyone in the
room, and we all knew that that certainly wasn't coming from cia. his career was a dead end. he was a gs-14 and that was it. and all of his classmates are rising through the ranks, but it didn't make any difference. you have never seen anybody with such a frightening ego. it really was almost frightening it was so huge. and that was, as i say in the book, that wasn't the rick ames i had known. he was a gentle soul. it was a personality change. but you have to remember, we worked with all of the these people. with a pretty small little group we had known for years and i am certain if you ask the same question to your own
organization, you can look in your office and say that person would never be a trader. you know? hopefully. and it was really one of those and i know the guys in the department said i cannot believe we are doing this. we said trust us. it is just like jean and i could never a find a spy in the fbi. we don't know the people or how the game is played. that does make a big difference. so, yeah, a lot of it is we could never find a spy working for the chinese and the reason we could not do that is we don't know the chinese services. we knew the soviet services and
probably better than any individual working in them. at times, you have to think like the opposition. it is that old story and i am certain there are a number of you who saw george scott in "pattent" when he said ronald, i read your book. and that is part of it. anymore questions? >> time for one more. >> go ahead. i already asked. >> thank you. not wishing bad on anybody, but if all of the evidence and then convicted, why was he given life instead of the death penalty? >> good question. that is all that was on the federal books at the time. i think this went back and i am not